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Nurse smilingBecome a nurse

Being a registered nurse is a diverse and rewarding career in which you can really make a difference to people's lives.  Nurses act as a leader, carer and clinician, taking responsibility for the care they provide their patients.

Being a leader

Experienced nurses find fulfilling careers in positions of responsibility, often running nurse-led clinics, or taking leadership roles up to executive level. It is possible to develop career pathways in clinical, research, education and management roles.

24 hours in nursing can be busy and diverse - nurses don't just work in hospitals. There are opportunities to work in GP surgeries, clinics, nursing and residential homes, occupational health services, voluntary organisations, the pharmaceutical industry, or in the military. 

What qualifications you’ll need

To work as a nurse, you’ll need a degree in nursing and you must be registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC). You won’t pay university fees, as your education is funded by the NHS. You’ll also need to choose which of the four nursing specialisms you’d like to study – adult, children, mental health, or learning disability. Nursing requires a high level of technical competence and clinical decision-making skills, and you’ll spend half of your nursing degree on supervised placements in local hospital and community settings.

Find your nursing degree

Visit the NHS Careers website to find a university near you offering nursing degrees in England or in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. There are also options through the Open University. Then visit the individual university website to learn more about the content of the course. You might want to go along to an open day to get a better idea, talk to lecturers and current students. Once you have decided which course and university, apply through UCAS. If you are employed in the health sector, your employer may support you to study part-time for a nursing degree.

Entry requirements for a nursing degree

Each higher education institution sets its own requirements, so make sure you check directly with them before applying. This is usually around five GCSEs plus two A-levels or equivalent. You will also have to:

  • demonstrate evidence of literacy and numeracy
  • complete a health questionnaire and identify any special needs related to a disability
  • declare any past convictions
  • allow the university to check whether you have a police record. You will not automatically be barred if you have a criminal conviction or caution - the university will take into account the circumstances and will treat any information in the strictest of confidence.

If you’re already working as a health care assistant, speak to your trust as they may support you to meet the entrance requirements through an apprentice scheme.

Other routes into nursing

There are many ways of getting into nursing - find out how to become a health care assistant, and be at the heart of health care.